Hiking in Lake Tahoe

Photo Credit: Joe Parks

If you’re looking for endless mountain views, crystal blue alpine lakes, and even an opportunity to see a bear – you have come to the right place. Lake Tahoe is a hiker’s dream destination and you will have the opportunity to scramble along mountain ridges or take a casual stroll through mountain meadows.

Hiking can be found all along the lake and mid-week you will find few people on the trails, giving you the chance to enjoy the serene setting. One highlight of the area is that the Pacific Crest trail crosses through Truckee, and this is a great chance to check out a segment of this 2,650 mile trail.

Summer will be your safest bet for dry trails and sunshine but definitely be prepared for crowds. Spring is when you might find snowy patches along the trail as you get into the higher elevations, but it can still be a great time of year to hit the trail. Fall is our personal favorite, with Aspens changing colors, perfect temperatures, and fewer people out and about, it makes for a pretty special experience.

Below we are going to outline some highlights for hiking in Lake Tahoe from a local’s point of view. There are truly endless trail systems so get off the beaten path and start your adventure!

Photo Credit: Joe Parks

North Lake Tahoe

Short: Eagle Rock – .7 miles  – This quick jaunt through the woods is a great place for a quick hike and amazing views. This trail is very family friendly and while the trail is steep in spots it is over quickly. 

Long: Five Lakes Trail – 5 miles  – Make sure you hit this one early in the day or midweek as it tends to get pretty busy. This out and back trail will take you, as the name suggests, past 5 beautiful alpine lakes giving you a chance for a swim to cool off in warmer months. Located in the Granite Chief wilderness very close to Squaw Valley, you will be rewarded with beautiful alpine views.

Photo Credit: Joe Parks

South Lake Tahoe

Long: Lake Aloha 13 miles  – This 13 mile loop is almost as good as it gets in the desolation wilderness area. Abundant wild flowers, moderate terrain, and a dog friendly trail make this perfect for a longer day hike or a backpacking overnight. Once at lake Aloha it’s time to take a dip, rejuvenating you for the hike out.

Long: Mt Tallac 10.2 miles– Another popular choice for hiking near South Lake Tahoe, this 10.2 mile + 3200’ vert hike will make you work for the top notch views. As you pass cathedral lake, remember that you’ve still got a ways to go. Fellow hikers recommend starting early for this one, as it tends to heat up pretty quickly mid-summer.

Photo Credit: Deb Etheredge

East Shore

Short: Spooner Lake Trail 2.5 miles – This quick loop is located in Spooner Lake State Park and is great family friendly hike in Lake Tahoe. With a mostly flat trail, lake views, and on-site facilities – you will have everything you need for a fun-filled day in the outdoors. Also, the State Park entry fee is $10 and you will need cash to pay.

Long: Flume Trail  – 14 miles (one-way) – Hikers, biker and runners all use this trail frequently and for good reason – a constant high level view of Lake Tahoe. While the first part of the trail, starting at Spooner Lake, will take you through aspen groves and alpine lakes, soon you will be high above Lake Tahoe with a bird’s eye view. Most people choose to shuttle this trail in order to keep the 14 miles length.

West Shore

Short: Eagle Lake 2 miles – If you want to maximize views in a short amount of time on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe this is the hike for you. During a 2 mile out and back hike you will pass multiple waterfalls and end up at a breathtaking alpine Lake surrounded by granite cliffs. If you’re a climber, it’s good to note that this area has some of Tahoe’s finest crack climbing. One other bonus is that the views start at the parking area which sits high above the well-known Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe.

Long: Rubicon Trail 16.4 miles – This trail might be Lake Tahoe’s most beautiful hike. You will wind in and out of tall pine tree forests as you wander along the shoreline in Emerald Bay. Crystal blue waters will be the theme of this hike and any time you’re getting to hot just pop in Lake Tahoe for a new burst of energy! Another busy trail, we recommend hitting this one early or mid-week to avoid crowds.

Photo Credit: Don Hilton

Truckee

Short: PCT segment – Donner Summit – The Pacific Crest Trail runs 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada and it passes right through Truckee along its way. Head up to Donner summit and jump on for a few miles for awesome summit views, including a stunning view of Donner Lake. If, you’re lucky, the seasonal rope swing will be up and it makes for a great photoshoot.

Long: Donner Rim Trail  (23 miles)  – This trail covers the area above Donner lake and is the sister trail to Lake Tahoe’s rim trail. High above Donner lake and Truckee, you will find yourself gazing out into what seems like endless mountains on the horizon.

With options ranging from short jaunts to overnights on the trail, Lake Tahoe is well rounded when it comes to hiking. Make sure you do some research before you come to learn more about bear activity, fire regulations, and weather conditions to make sure you’re wearing the right apparel for variable alpine conditions.  Have fun and see you on the trail!